COVID-19: Schools Update

Would you like to view this email in a web page? Click here

schools update

Latest update for all schools April 8

dan barton

Dear All,

It’s now three weeks since the point in the Covid-19 epidemic at which we were instructed to close all schools, and for a number to remain open to support the children of key workers and vulnerable children.

We understood early on that, in Cumbria, we would need to develop a model which pooled our resources, and supported colleagues across the system to work together. Our approach has been borne out by subsequent announcements from central government, and I am grateful to everyone for being on board with the plan from the outset. This has enabled us to continue to be ahead of the curve.

Thanks again for all your support and hard work. 


Dan Barton, Assistant Director - Education and Skills
Cumbria County Council

Working with hubs

Next Tuesday, the summer term would have begun, and the Easter ‘holidays’ will be over. This is the point at which we will formally be launching the school hubs which will be providing childcare and activities for the children of key workers, and for vulnerable children.

Clearly, schools are already open, and hundreds of young people are already attending your settings. We currently have a ‘mixed economy’ of hubs working across a patch, and schools which are opening to their own pupils. This ‘menu’ of options across the county reflects our demographic and geographic diversity, and was always to be expected.

To make it absolutely clear, the County Council will continue to work with all schools and hubs in order to ensure the best provision available for our children, and to ensure resources are pooled and shared where necessary to support the safe and timely implementation of government guidance. It will, of course, be necessary for all schools, either as part of a school hub, or opening locally to their own students, to continue to work together to ensure sustainable provision.

I have made this point on several occasions and will do so again; the provision which we put on in Cumbria is being put in place for all the right reasons, but we must not do so at the expense of the health and safety of our support staff, teachers and head teachers. We must continue to balance carefully the perfectly legitimate demands of the whole system, responding proportionately, but humanely to the situation. It has been a monumental effort to get us to this point, so thank you all for that.

As time goes on, and as we cope with the inevitable teething problems, we will arrive at a point where the supply of and demand for places in our school hubs is stable. I anticipate that before that point is reached, we will need to open further hubs in order to accommodate vulnerable children. On which note, I want to make it clear that our colleagues in the Inclusion and Social Care Teams respectively are working very hard to get through caseloads numbering in the thousands in order to risk-assess those children whose safety or whose needs are best met outside the home at this time. These risk assessments are being cross-referenced with schools’ own lists, in order to ensure that no students slip through the net. The Learning Improvement Service is matching children to hubs, and will support with any risk assessment activity which follows.

Whilst the legislation surrounding schools and education has been necessarily ‘relaxed’, it remains our duty to ensure that ‘best endeavours’ are made to ensure standards of care and access to school hubs. This means that, amongst other things, transport to and from school for children who qualify for this will need to be provided.

We are working with our in-house transport team, and with the Transport Commissioning Team in order to provide, through a mixed economy, this service. Clearly, the same pressures on staffing and finances which we are all experiencing are also a factor in transport providers’ thinking, so the market which is available to us will be less buoyant than previously. Given the relatively low numbers of children though, we believe that there will be at least a sufficiency of transport options. It will, however, take some time to organise new transport routes, for hundreds of children, to different locations. We are doing our best to make this part of the system work.

School funding guidance

The DfE yesterday issued some guidance around School funding: exceptional costs associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) for the period March to July 2020.

This guidance sets out the financial support the Department for Education will put in place to ensure schools can focus on the vital role they are playing at this time.

While we do not know how long the current situation will continue, this guidance covers support for schools up to the end of the 2019 to 2020 summer term and includes advice on:

  • Eligibility for this funding
  • How schools can access funding
  • Additional costs covered by the fund
  • Funding allowances
  • Expectations of schools
  • Short-term support with costs

New and trainee staff union membership reminder

Our Education Tactical Co-ordination Group (ETCG) and Trade Union colleagues are keen to remind new and trainee staff who work in schools in Cumbria that they  are entitled to be members of Trades Unions.

The NEU and NASUWT are the active, recognised unions for new teachers and trainees. Both unions offer free membership for trainees and offers for the first year when you start working. Please find attached further information on Trades Union Membership for trainees and new staff, including advice on the benefits of joining a union and how to sign up. 

A reminder to complete our data collection form

Please complete and submit our data collection form each day by 12 noon. The information you provide will enable us to provide support; make sure that you have the resources you need and to assess the sufficiency of places and to report on the uptake of provision.



Please click here to see answers to your most common questions. FAQs will be updated daily.